Shares in travel firms such as British Airways owner IAG and Intercontinental Hotels Group saw gains on Thursday as China lifted curbs on foreign travel by tour groups three years after being imposed to limit the spread of Covid-19.
The surge came as the Chinese ministry of culture and tourism said it would allow group tours to an extended group of 78 countries, including the UK, US, Japan, Australia, Germany and South Korea as well as Israel and Gulf states such as Oman and Qatar, taking the total to 138.
The ministry announced the resumption of group tours to 20 countries in January, including Thailand, Singapore and Russia, before expanding the list to 60 countries in March, adding popular destinations such as Italy, France and Spain.
A spokesperson for Beijing-based global advertising agency Hylink said the new list of destination countries for outbound group tourism “is expected to profoundly impact retailers and travel-related businesses worldwide”.
Chinese tourists were avid travellers prior to the pandemic making mainland China the world’s top outbound travel market both in terms of trip numbers and spending.
Tourists took 155 million outbound trips in 2019, spending $255 billion on travel, according to a survey by management consultancy McKinsey & Co
More than half (65%) travelled for leisure, while 29% were on business and 6% visited friends and relatives.
The study revealed an enduring desire among Chinese tourists to explore international destinations, with around 40% of respondents expressing plans for outbound leisure trips.
Hylink Group Americas managing partner Humphrey Ho said: “With the group tour ban lifted, retailers and travel stakeholders have a golden chance to capitalise on this pivotal shift.
“China’s international outbound numbers, currently at about 30% of 2019 levels, signal vast untapped potential.”